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A Community Mini-festo
Written by Morgane Oleron
Few words have been more spoilt than Community lately.

My work, even my life seems to revolve around it and yet, everytime I encounter the “other C-word”, on a leaflet, a brochure, a website, I cringe. Such a beautiful concept, so many times stripped of all its essential attire and turned selling point in the name of Hermes’ mortal distant relative, Business. 

Whenever you do something that involve other humans, Community is strategically important. It is however easy to lose track of it in the process of building a business. And for some, it will forever remain just a bullet point in their marketing pitch.

Why? Because it is seen by many as “fluffy”, intangible, difficult to measure, and costly. It is often considered a “nice to have”; “something we will focus on later”, but rarely is on top of the priority list. It can seem insignificant but is a mistake that will end up costing a lot more than if it had been addressed in the first place. 

Why is Community essential?

Because if it is not always why people first join, it is definitely why people stay. 

And ultimately this is what we want: for the people, a genuine sense of belonging, a place they feel heard and trusted, where they can thrive and grow. 

For the business: Less turnover strengthens the sense of Community, and positively impacts on marketing and operational costs.

Happy tenants = Happy landlords.
Happy employees  = Happy CEO
Happy members = Happy Leader ...

What is Community?

My favourite definition so far comes from  “sense of Community” by Mc Millan & Chavis from their 1986 publication:

“A Sense of community is a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group and a shared faith that member’s needs will be met through their commitment to be together.”

They go further and define four essential elements for a sense of Community: membership, influence, integration and fulfilment of needs, shared emotional connection.

How does one build Community?

To start with, “One” does not build anything on his/her own.

I am not a fan of throwing in Latin definitions, having suffered through three years of latin in junior high, but I can’t help to think the etymology of the word is actually very useful this time around.

→ Community comes from from the Latin communitas, the sense of sharing and intimacy that develops among persons who experience things as a group, fellowship.
→ Communitas itself is derived from Communis, Common.
→ The prefix "com" signifies "with, together, in conjunction, joint".
→ While “munis”, is derives from munire, meaning "to fortify, strengthen, or defend".

So you have it. Community is a group effort. “A Community Of, By, For” have the same common denominator.

Many smart and experienced people in the field of Community building have shared very good contents that is extremely useful when building your own. Something that has become, through personal experience and research, the golden rule and starting point of anything even slightly community related is, The Community Canvas by Fabian Pfortmüller, Nico Luchsinger and Sascha Mombartz. 

The Community Canvas relies on 3 essentials for a Community to thrive:

- Identity
- Experience
- Structure

This is where we can act. We, Community leaders/builders/dreamers, need come together to provide the structure and encourage experiences to build identity.

“Community as a service” might be an effective marketing message but more often than not, fails to deliver in the long run. In my experience, a true community that can deliver long term value to both the members and the business, whichever business it is, is created organically by its members and evolves with them.

However, such “organic community” can only be achieved if its members know what to search for and also can stand on a clear and steady structures, a set of guidelines to come back to in case of doubts or conflicts. That is why it is important that we, from the start, inspire the right “vision”, give out the right tools and empower members from the start, to keep on building.
Community expert, writer and globe trotter, Gui Perdrix wrote a brilliant and very clear research article about ROI for coliving companies investing on Community building. And he reaches the same conclusions. Like everything else in life, the more you give, the more you get back.

Where does Community building start?

Community is being built from day one, by all our actions, or lack thereof. As you are reading these words, step one is already in motion, whether this resonates with you or not, we are taking a stand, and allowing you to make an informed decision. Maybe you will join us?

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